Agriculture’s inclusion has sent ’positive signals’ on the importance of the industry.
Agriculture’s inclusion in the Government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper has been welcomed by farming bodies including the NFU, AHDB and CLA.
The white paper focuses on technology in food and farming to make the sector more efficient and productive going forward and transforming the sector ‘from farm to fork’.
Hertfordshire beef and cereal farmer Stuart Roberts said agriculture’s inclusion had sent ‘positive signals’.
“If you go back five or ten years, it would be fair to ask would agriculture have appeared. Just by having it there is testament it is important,” he said.
Mr Roberts said he had been particularly encouraged by the talk of a Food and Drink Sector Council which would provide a partnership between Government and the supply chain.
And he added it was positive to focus on technology and food production, rather than simply on a ‘Green Brexit’.
But Mr Roberts highlighted the livestock sector, including new grading technology and improving genetics, which had not been mentioned and hoped this would be something the council could pick up on.
AHDB said it was a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ for the sector to come together and ‘crack the challenge’ of weak productivity growth.
“The Food and Drink Sector Council will really need to champion and drive the delivery of a food and drink sector deal.
“Yes, this industry is definitely capable of putting the UK at the forefront of high-efficiency agriculture and high-efficiency food production. However we will have to pull together as a united supply chain to seize this opportunity.”
NFU President Meurig Raymond said he was delighted to read of the Government’s desire to ‘put the UK at the forefront of the global move to high-efficiency agriculture’ as well as the likely prospect of a new Challenge Fund programme of research funding on ‘Transforming food production, from farm to fork’.
“And we welcome the Government commitment to a new partnership with the whole food chain.
“It will be critically important that the interests of our agriculture and horticulture members are represented on the proposed Food and Drink Sector Council, which will build upon the emerging proposals for an overarching Food and Farming Sector Deal.
“British farming forms the bedrock to the UK’s largest manufacturing industry – food and drink – and it meets 61 per cent of the nation’s food needs.
“The NFU has set out a bold and ambitious vision for how British farming can build on its productivity, profitability and progressiveness.
“By and large, this White Paper shows the promising signs needed for a bright and sustainable future for British farming.”
CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said rural businesses would play a vital role in future prosperity and it would work with the Government to put in place policies which ‘make it easier to unlock the investment potential’.
“It is disappointing to not see more specific action pledged on planning reform but the commitment to invest in the roll out of broadband and mobile connectivity is vitally important.
“The reference to rural areas is good but we will continue to watch this closely because promises have been made many times before yet delivery remains patchy.
“We welcome the specific attention given to agriculture. There is no doubt that this is an industry in need of significant investment as it adapts to change.
“The focus on clean growth is needed and the strategy rightly identifies that technology coupled with better use of data will be the key to making farming more efficient and productive, whilst reducing potentially harmful impacts on the environment.
“This commitment to investment and policy support in these areas, has to be matched by a commitment to securing the possible Brexit trade deal and establishing a successor to the Common Agricultural Policy that is fit for the next generation.”
Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) deputy president Ivor Ferguson said it was pleased to see the Government championing the industry.
“Northern Ireland is already recognised as a world class food producer and I believe our farmers are up to the challenge to help achieve this ambitious goal.
Mr Ferguson welcomed the partnership with the food chain but emphasised it was ‘critically important’ the interests of primary producers were meaningfully represented.
“We are all well aware of the problems in the supply chain. The balance of power is largely held by retailers and processors.
“This new partnership will need to ensure the voices of all in the supply chain are heard and treated fairly.”